If you’ve made the shift to a cruelty-free lifestyle and are looking for vegan beauty products, it can be hard to know where to start. Few beauty products contain meat or eggs, but many include a handful of animal-dervied ingredients carefully hidden in lengthy lists of ingredients. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled the top items to look for and those to avoid when shopping for vegan beauty products.
What to Look For:
- Cruelty-free statements or logos – Products that test on animals rarely announce it, but those that don’t are often proud to share it. Look for the words “Not Tested on Animals” or “No Animal Testing.” Even better is the easily identifiable leaping bunny logo, which has strict standards that practically guarantee a product was made without animal testing during any phase of development.
- Ingredients you can pronounce – The best ingredient lists are full of familiar ingredients such as “organic peppermint extract” and “shea butter.” Although beauty product ingredients will differ slightly from edible recipes, seek out products with safe, natural ingredients such as candelilla wax, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and xanthan gum.
- Essential Oils – Vague ingredients such as “fragrance” can refer to a variety of ingredients are not all of them are safe. Look for products scented with pure essential oils to take the guesswork out of what you’re inhaling or absorbing.
- Companies sensitive to vegans – When choosing which companies to support, consider buying from businesses that cater to vegans. Lines such as Gabriel and Pristine Beauty offer exclusively vegan lines. Companies such as Primavera may not be entirely vegan, but clearly designate vegan products with a badge or symbol on their website or product packaging. Often these companies will take great care to avoid animal testing and sometimes even go the extra mile by incorporating eco-friendly production processes.
What to Avoid:
- Hazardous preservatives – Natural products sometimes have a shorter shelf life due to the intentional exclusion of hazardous preservatives such as parabens and BHT. While there are some good alternatives, most products that have an unnaturally long shelf-life are that way due to the use of these chemicals. A product that contains parabens or BHT may be vegan, but natural product manufacturers are removing these preservatives due to outspoken consumers concerned with product safety.
- Controversial ingredients – Vocal consumers have been asking companies to remove Propylene glycol, retinyl palmitate (vitamin A), and Sodium Laryl Sulfate (SLS). Recent studies have revealed that these products may be unsafe, so long-term exposure should be avoided. Many natural products avoid these ingredients, but it’s worth doing some research before deciding whether or not to purchase beauty products containing propylene glycol, retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and SLS.
- Carmine – Made from crushed insect bodies, this ingredient produces a vibrant red. Commonly found in lip, cheek, and eye products in the red/pink color families, carmine is far from vegan. This ingredient is produced in a harmful way and should be avoided by those looking to live a vegan lifestyle. Be sure to watch for it listed as Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Natural Red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120 as well.
- Lanolin – This waxy substance is created from the secretions of the sebaveous glands of wooly animals such as sheep. Vegans typically avoid this ingredient because it may be a slaughterhouse byproduct, and sheep are sometimes harmed in the shearing process. This is due to the incentives for speed over well-being of the sheep. Although “lanolin” is the most common name, it may also be called Adeps Lanae, wool wax or wool grease.
- Bee products – Honey and beeswax come from honeybees, whose natural population has been perilously declining lately. Most honey and beeswax comes from factory farms that condone practices such as clipping a queen’s wings in order to increase production. With many great alternatives such as agave nectar and candelilla wax, it’s easy to boycott bee products.
For more information on animal ingredients in beauty products, check out a full list on PETA’s website. If safety if a priority, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a great way to learn more about the ingredients on any label.
Via Kaylin Johnson, an eco-friendly makeup artist living and working in Austin, Texas. A frequent blogger, Kaylin loves reviewing vegan beauty products is the author of the blog Kaylin’s Kit.